Special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis appeared a little more animated and urgent at practice this week after his special teams were anything but against Philadelphia (blocked FG try, Eagles TD kickoff return, three penalties, bobbled punt). He declared that his units needed to find people “who can play on Sunday,” meaning real-life NFL games.
Whether he found enough of them on Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars was doubtful, particularly in the quest for a returner to fill the gaping void left by Devin Hester’s departure for Atlanta.
“We certainly didn’t see much in the return game,” said coach Marc Trestman.
Eric Weems, with a chance to secure the returner role while Chris Williams recovers from a hamstring injury, fumbled away a first-quarter kickoff return. The turnover set up Jacksonville at its 23-yard line and the Jaguars scored seven plays later on a six-yard pass from Chad Henne to Marqise Lee.
Michael Spurlock was inserted to return the second-half kickoff. He reached the Chicago 11. Michael Ford returned Jacksonville’s next kickoff, also only to the 11, but only after dropping the ball in the end zone. Spurlock proceeded to signal fair-catch on a fourth-quarter punt, let it leak through his arms but was spared the ignominy of a fumble when the ball went out of bounds.
“We had the turnover, but more than that we haven’t seen anything in the return game. It’s been pretty much a catch and a stop so we’ve got to look into that as well…. I’m not sure where we are.”
If there was a positive, rookie punter Patrick O’Donnell gained an edge over any remaining competition with Tress Way when he got off kicks of 57 and 51 yards in the first half, while Way’s one for the first half went out of bounds at the Jacksonville 25 after covering just 26 yards.
Way rebounded with a 50-yard effort, but O’Donnell directed a 38-yard effort that put the Jaguars at the Jacksonville 15 with no return. Way then helped himself with a 54-yard kick late in the fourth quarter.